By Dr. Gail Saltz
When men have affairs, they tend to be motivated by sex — new sex, more sex, different sex. Women cheat for many reasons: companionship, romance, more security, and, of course, sex. But are men’s motivations really that simple? No. Even for men, cheating is far more complex.
Studies show most men who cheat want to experiment sexually and experience the rush associated with “new sex.” This is their way of prolonging indefinitely the early and intoxicating phase of infatuation in a relationship. But men also have affairs to either avoid intimacy, recover their lost youth, or escape an unhappy marriage.
Men who fear intimacy will have affairs to maintain power in their relationships. If a man doesn't commit to his lover, he controls his level of vulnerability. Some men cheat in fact to avoid any real intimacy. Intimacy scares them, so they distance themselves from their wives by cheating on them and they don’t get emotionally involved with their lovers. This way they never have to trust their partners or rely on them. This kind of man may also fear conflict.
Then there are men who will strike up an affair when they start to feel the fear and loss that comes with aging. They realize they are no longer young and invulnerable, so they have an affair to deny that they are getting old. Finding someone who is “young and new,” makes them feel more youthful.
Biologists believe men cheat by the Darwinian instinct to spread their genetic seed to more mates (whereas women would one mate to get protection and support). However, since more women are cheating, this suggests that they felt societal pressure in the past to suppress their sexual desires. There also may be another reason men are more likely to stray: environment. Psychologically speaking, men who cheat are often the child of an adulterer. They are repeating behavior that they know and looking to correct that feeling that no one ever loved only them.
Not all affairs are created equal. There is the one-night stand, the long-term love affair, and the tryst that serves as a way to end a marriage. Not all affairs happen because the marriage is in obvious trouble or bad. However, a conflict-ridden marriage will certainly be at greater risk. Many women mistakenly believe the mistress must be more attractive than she. Actually, this is not often the case. It seems to be the wish for newness and variety, as well as the particular man’s psychological needs and vulnerabilities that is more the motivator. While a marriage might not be bad, it can still lack honesty and active communication.
Adultery need not be the end of a marriage, though it certainly is one heck of a wake up call. If you are contemplating an affair, then there is no question you will be SORRY! Affairs hurt everyone, including you. You cannot keep both women, so you will be distressed at some point. Don’t leave yourself in susceptible situations, such as when alcohol is involved.
How to save your marriage
For the cheater:
For the betrayed:
- You must give up your lover. This will not be easy. You will have to grieve the loss of her as well as the loss of the feelings associated with having someone completely attracted to you and the excitement of forbidden sex. You can never restore your marriage and the trust of your spouse without immediately breaking off your affair.
- Apologize (profusely) for the hurt to your spouse. You have devastated her, ruined her trust and made her feel like she is nothing. Acknowledge her feelings and how sorry you are you did this.
- Figure out why you slipped. Is it old childhood hurts, fear of growing old, loss of communication with her? Work to understand how you ended up here in the first place so you can prevent it from happening again.
- Work to regain the trust. Now is the time for complete honesty!
- Be open, be true and give it a lot of time. Slowly you can make it back.
- You won’t forget but decide to forgive. When you are wounded by betrayal it does stick with you. However, to save the marriage you must work toward forgiving him. After the apologies, understand what happened and figure out what needs to change so you can forgive him and move forward.
- Get family or friend support. It’s a bad time and the person you would usually turn to is the person who hurt you. So recruit siblings, parents and friends to be your shoulder. Tell him you love him.
- Don’t let him just go off with her, but tell him he has to give her up or there will be no you. Then let him know that you really do love him despite your anger and hurt, and that you will try to make it work.
- Don’t punish him forever. You want to spend a lifetime with him, but it can’t be a lifetime of anger and guilt. At some point, you must stop asking the details and telling him what a horrible jerk he was or it will poison any chance at happiness and he will find another lover.
Anyone here who thinks they can forgive someone for cheating?